Kinetic Shadows

Kinetic Shadows is a highly engaging urban installation, designed to reflect the vitality and energy of Athens city life during the Olympics. Distributed along the street as benches for public rest, sculptural elements rise to occupy and perform in the sky overhead. These electro-mechanical elements react to the presence and participation of pedestrians – sheltering moments of respite during the day and illuminating moments of activity at night. As an aesthetic attraction from afar and a local catalyst for social interaction, spectators become players as they inevitably engage with the phases of Kinetic Shadows, becoming part of a large-scale urban instrument.

During the Olympics, Athens will be a vital cultural meeting ground. A vast number of locals and visitors will populate the streets and passages of Athens, where they will not only engage with the historic city, but also with each other. Catch the Light marks the passage between day and night in the Olympics: ”During the day Athens hosts the games. At night she celebrates them…Light helps people find their bearings in the map of Attica; it projects a city’s own, live image back to itself; it domesticates Athenian chaos, and effects people’s participation in the Games’ atmosphere of celebration.”

Kinetic Shadows is a series of 10 public benches distributed through the street or a plaza. Rising above each bench to occupy and animate the sky overhead is an autonomous shading device which is electro-mechanically controlled. During the day, the shading elements disperse shadow and at night they are illuminated to cast light onto the people just below. Sensors are built into the benches to sense the proximity of pedestrians, translating their activities into kinetic patterns determined by the density, speed, and rhythms of shading elements overhead and throughout the bench system.

The installation will instigate curiosity on a personal level, as well as acting as a catalyst for social interaction. While pedestrians consciously or unintentionally interact with the Kinetic Shadows, bystanders can observe the unfolding situations from a safe distance and enjoy the interplay between the crowd and the artificial sky of Kinetic Shadows.

Shadow is one of the most valuable commodities in the blazing Mediterranean sun, but people won’t get it for free. The Kinetic Shadows will only be generating islands of refreshing refuge, where certain calm is maintained. If the crowd under a Kinetic Shadows is too agitated or noisy, the Kinetic Shadows will retreat, leaving the unruly crowd in the scorching heat.

The installation therefore becomes an intuitive social instrument, mediating the communal and personal interests beyond spoken language. The participants become the piece as they weave the light through the Athens streets, controlling the amount of shadow or light each structure provides.

Kinetic Shadows has two main states. During the day, it acts as a refuge from the crowd, the noise, and the heat of the city. The Kinetic Shadows draw people in, rewarding them with wind and shadows, and creating pools of respite and quiet happenings in the city. Through the daylight hours, the shadows lenghten and the gathering spots reflect the passage of the sun. Moments of reflection, pause, and meeting that could otherwise go unnoticed are sheltered, rewarded, and brought into focus.

In the evening, the effect is reversed to reflect the celebratory spirit of the nightlife, and adding to the colour and dynamism populating the city streets. Light ’shadows’ are cast by the overhead elements depending on proximity to the public furniture, which act as catalysts and scenes for bright moments of meeting and lively interaction. For the 24-hour city, Kinetic Shadows engages qualities of light and shadow to as both shelter and and catalyst for the vitality and energy of Athens during the Olympic games.


Margot Jacobs
Ramia Mazé
Tobi Schneidler
Adam Somlai-Fischer

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